Topical Musical Sunday – Never Buy the Sun

Sometimes music can say more than words

From Billy Bragg.

And if you haven’t followed the reference about Scousers not buying the Sun, you can read about it here.  The Sun is the ‘sister’ paper of the News of the World which closed today.

Dear Deirdre

Dear Deirdre

I suppose you are making an effort with your survey on the Sun website asking readers to tell you all that is wrong with social work.

Personally though, I find it insulting that you were given a place on the Social Work Taskforce that is to report on changes and improvements to be made to Social Work. Although apparently more front line workers are being included, unfortunately, Deirdre remains.  And no, justifying her position because of a Sun petition is not a defence, it is even more of an insult. Let’s put this simply – I say this for the following reasons:-

The Sun organised a campaign which included false reporting of social work – victimised individual social workers and questioned the mental health of a social worker. Now, they are claiming ‘victory’ in successfully causing the dismissal of a social worker and social work managers. Fine with the managers, but honestly if I live and work in a country where red top journalism and over-hyped dishonest media campaigns can lead to dismissal rather than incompetence in the workplace then it isn’t doing very much for morale – don’t you think?

What experience do you have of social work? Seriously. What knowledge beyond what your colleagues report? Where has there been any will to engage –  I see you pulled out of the Community Care Live event? Can’t take the heat, eh, Deirdre?

Fine, if the taskforce wants a media representative – there are many worthy journalists from Community Care or The Guardian who have consistently shown a knowledge and appreciation of the wider issues within social work but AN AGONY AUNT FROM THE SUN??? Who on earth is going to take Social Work seriously if they think that newspaper agony columns offer some kind of expertise in social work?

I don’t want to be trialled and judged by media – I want to do my job well and effectively and be supported by professional organisations and relevant government departments – not held up to some kind of media trial that you seem to be creating by surveys.

If the task force was REALLY interested in views it would have made the meetings for social workers actually more accessible rather than bunching them in with a few days notice and filling up within hours. I desperately wanted to attend one of the feed back days but my only possibility in London was about a week after I found out that they existed because the other date filled up within a day. Hardly feasible for the front-line workers who, you know, have work to do..

Well, I’ve made my views clear but lets try and get to Deirdre’s ‘survey’ and give her some of the opinions she so  obviously wants from Sun readers.

For the record, Deirdre, your first question on that survey, you know where you get one answer and have to say if you have ever had contact with a social worker or you are a social worker.. you know, sweets, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

I am a social worker. My foster child has a social worker, myself and my partner have a supervising social worker, my father who is, himself, elderly (sorry Dad, I know you are reading this!) has a social worker. So what on earth made you think that no social worker can possibly actually USE the services of social workers for your oh-so-helpful survey.

Bleh.  Oh well, I guess it makes a change not to see the pressing issues of infidelities or what to do if you’ve impregnated your next door neighbour’s daughter on your problem page (although I suspect that’s only in the online edition).

image gene hunt at Flickr

Go and fill it out though, guys, and let her know exactly what we think.

Oh and Deirdre, if you do ever find your way here, I’d love to hear your defence.

Wow, I sometimes have grumps but don’t often have a full-on rant. Sometimes it feels quite good.

Shoesmith speaks

I’ve not been a great defender of Shoesmith, the former Director of Children’s Services at Haringey,  but it doesn’t take much heart to have some sympathy for her ‘trial by media’ in the wake of the Baby P affair.

She has given an interview to The Guardian with the audio version here

There is also an editorial piece which makes interesting reading.

I have more sympathy for her than I did before I read and listened to the interview so for as much as that, it has served it’s purpose.

There is no doubt that mistakes were made with tragic consequences but the media storm and focus that made her consider suicide – well, I hope there are a few journalists who think about the work done in children’s services and the effects that their rabble-rousing has on individuals – when ultimately, there is a wish to work effectively and well within systems that are not always of the employees’ making.

As for Ed Balls, he has shown a wish to pander to the tabloid crowd.

Child Protection has become a political football to be bounced around as the public mood is ripe for targets.

Surely more needs to be done in a wider societal scale to prevent the circumstances that lead to abuse – and I’m not sure that an agony aunt at The Sun will have the answers.

Follow The Sun

Yesterday the make up of the shiny new government Task Force on Social Work was announced. This is a focus group who are to be involved in the ‘root and branch’ review of front-line practice of the Social Work profession as a whole in the UK.

The ‘team’ has been put together by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families – Ed Balls and the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson and are due to report back to the government this summer.

That doesn’t leave them a lot of time. Of course, I am sure there can be a million different views about the rightness or wrongness of the composition of this committee. Social Work runs across childrens’ and adult services. Social Work covers a wide gamut of interests and experiences. It is difficult for a committee which is small enough to function effectively to be large enough to address the differing aspects of the profession so the hope is that those groups not having a place specifically on the task force will be considered and represented by those who do have a voice.

The task force (I don’t know, that just brings back memories of the Falklands Invasion to me) has the usual members, some front line workers, some academics, some chief executives – but there is one member whose presence really is staggering.

Deirdre Sanders, the agony aunt of The Sun – remember, the same tabloid newspaper that carried out a vitriolic witch-hunt against individual social workers and organised a petition against them – has a place on this Task Force.

image mysza831  at Flickr

I’m sure Deirdre is a wonderful human being. She writes very sensible letters in the newspaper (so I’m told). Am I the only one to be staggered that the social work profession has to engage journalists to discuss the future of their profession though at this level? Sure, if it were a task force on the ‘perception of social work’ or ‘improving the way that social work is reported’ she would be a valuable member of the team –  but honestly, a committee which is tasked with making changes to the social work profession?

It feels a bit like Ed Balls playing (again) a public opinion game with a profession that has had too much political interference for its own good.

Emma Maier considered this at The Social Work Blog and looks at both the positives of Deirdre’s appointment, namely that

giving The Sun the inside track on the taskforce could be a clever because it is always more difficult to slate something you are involved in. Having the popular press on side would help convey some of the important messages to come out of the taskforce. And the rest of the taskforce seems to offer a good spread of stakeholders from children’s and adults’ services.

It is something I hadn’t considered initially but then, why should a team of professionals who are conducting a serious review of the needs of social work in the 21st century have to get ‘popular press’ onside. Why should we, as social workers, need to work hard to involve tabloid journalists in our professional goals and developments. We should look at how social workers can work most effectively and beneficially for the public good and for the individual users of services rather than pandering to public agendas created by popular journalism.

Can we imagine a task force of any other professional group involving an ‘agony aunt’? OK, excepting a task force of journalists.. I guess that would work.. User involvement is represented quite rightly on the task force so why appoint a paid employee of the Sun newspaper. Will her presence, as I’m sure she is extremely articulate and able, overpower and detract from the serious discussions that need to take place about social work. Is this a true and honest attempt to improve and create a fundamentally workable system or is it a publicity stunt by Ed Balls. Again. Who seems to like using social workers are political footballs.

As for me, I feel honestly, insulted that my profession cannot be given the respect should command by the government.

I await the report in the summer with interest and no little trepidation.